The New Era of Digital Strategy Development and the Role of the Digital Strategy Savant

By Scott Klososky

A strategy of any sort is one of the pillars of business development. It is surprising that so many organizations take an ad hoc approach (or no approach at all) to developing a written and widely shared strategy. This is especially surprising when a digital strategy is meant to play a significant role in moving an organization forward. Today, leaders understand that a dominant digital landscape has the potential to provide a unique competitive advantage, but the strategic approach is often lacking.

A Digital Strategy Savant is a person who is willing to think more expansively, and beyond the archaic strategy methods most companies are using today. The Savant understands that a digital strategy must be lofty, it must empower the business goals and not just “align” with them, and it has to place an organization technologically two years ahead of its competition.

Strategic digital thinking is ripe for improvement – vast improvement! The breadth and depth of how technology is integrated into every aspect of a business are advancing like never before. State-of-the-art strategies that are well executed are resulting in financial gains at crazy levels for some leaders. Digital strategy roadmaps have moved well beyond a list of projects and timelines. They now include aspects like innovation models, automation programs, data activation, and creating a more adaptive organizational environment. Questions now must be asked – such as the level of digital strategy preparedness of the team – because the technology that can be implemented may not be able to be exploited by your people. New thinking about digital strategies and a set of encompassing guiding principles are now required to prepare an organization for a strong, digitally-driven future.

Key Principle One –Building a Dynamic Strategy

Digital strategies must be front and center in every business initiative. How many thoughtfully developed digital strategies are collecting dust on office bookshelves? I rarely walk into a leader’s office and find they have a digital strategy sitting on the desk or within reach. There is no such thing as a static business, so there should never be a static digital strategy. It must be dynamic and adaptable. Much like Google Maps versus a folded map, it has to be easily adaptable to changing demands. Strategy governance is key to ensuring that every time a new business goal is adopted or adjusted, the strategy is updated. Cultivate the idea that everyone is responsible for maintaining it. When a new initiative is brought up in a meeting, people must raise their hands and ask if it is part of the strategy or if a change is in order.

Key Principle Two – An Inspirational Playbook

The old way to look at a digital strategy roadmap was to have a Gantt chart list of projects. That is not a strategy! That is a list of projects, and although it is helpful at one level, it does not answer questions like, “Why are we doing this?” and “What do we hope to accomplish by doing these projects?” Your digital strategy must now be inspirational as well as aspirational. It is a guide for innovative thinking. It’s a collaborative pathway to team thinking and ideation. It creates fertile ground for innovation and seeing those ideas come to fruition. These are the factors that attract and keep top talent. At its highest maturity, a roadmap becomes more than a playbook for execution and success. It is a yardstick and inspirational process that measures the advancement of ideas.

Key Principle Three – Guideposts as Guiding Principles

The new era of digital strategy roadmap development must include guiding principles, or Guideposts, that help steer and guide execution to its desired conclusion. These consist of desired outcomes that are measured at certain milestones. This allows for course corrections along the way. Guideposts might look like this: Better engage with stakeholders, including customers, employees and partners, and build stronger relationships; utilize our digital platforms to communicate more effectively, build brand awareness, and engage with stakeholders in new and innovative ways.

Again, a digital strategy roadmap must be dynamic with consistent adjustments which connect to shifting business outcomes and goals. With every milestone, guidepost and KPI reached, new ones need to be defined. This is how strategies steer organizational performance over time.

Key Principle 4 – The Roadmap as a Scorecard

Rarely do organizations revisit a strategy and evaluate its success against business performance. Understanding the impacts of digital enhancements in relation to key performance indicators is the reason for developing a digital strategy. As the digital maturity of an organization improves, so should the performance of the organization. This is why it is critical to carefully align each digital initiative with specific business goals. Each of these outcomes, summarized in a table showing both the wins and the losses, produces a scorecard that is driven by quantifiable measures.

Key Principle 5 – The Role of the Digital Strategy Savant

The Savant captures the critical business drivers, identifies the projects needed to achieve those outcomes, and ensures the continued development of the strategy itself. The less obvious activities of the digital strategy savant will include an understanding of the enterprise architecture (EA) as well as identifying process improvements that guarantee repeated success in the future. It takes a Savant role to fully leverage this new approach to digital strategy roadmap development and implementation. New thinking and innovative strategic thought are the hallmarks of a digital savant.

The Savant can be the CEO, the CIO, the VP of IT or anyone else who has a passion for digital progress and the discipline to create a digital strategy process and ensure the organization sticks with it over time. One fact stands out in our experience: every organization needs a digital strategy savant to lead this process. Absent this role, the digital strategy often fails to get done or fails to be completed at any level.

Final Thoughts

Leaders must decide how they want to invest their most precious resource – time. In this day and age, there are few investments of time that have a larger payoff than implementing a vivid digital strategy road-mapping process. The results of applying technology at levels above your competitors end up being profit amplification. This is due to using technology to grow topline revenue while at the same time automating and lowering costs. Do these at the same time, and profits will grow. When some of this profit is reinvested in the digital strategy, a Virtuous Spiral can be formed where technological progress is funding even more rapid digital strategy gains.